Health Benefits of Outdoor Play
It is essential that young children get frequent and regular opportunities to explore and learn in the outdoor environment. In recent years there has been a cultural shift in our society that has reduced the access and use of outdoors for many young children for e.g. television, video and computer games.
Learning Outside the Classroom
- Being outside and playing outside is vital to a child's growth.
- Daily exposure to natural settings increases children's ability to focus and therefore enhances cognitive abilities.
- Allows children to play safely and freely while they learn to assess risk and develop the skills to manage new situations.
- Supports the development of healthy and active lifestyles.
- Opportunities for children to do physical activities, freedom and movement, and promoting a sense of well-being.
- Gives children contact with the natural world and offers them experiences that are unique to outdoors - such as weather and the seasons.
- Helps children to understand and respect nature, the environment and the interdependence of humans, animals, plants and lifecycles.
- Supports children's problem-solving skills, nutures creativity, developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
- Provides children with space, both upwards and outwards, and places to explore, experiment, discover active and healthy, and to develop their physical capabilities.
- Develops very young children to learn prodominately through their sensory and physical experiences which supports brain development and creation of neural networks.
Anyone who takes children outside regularly sees the enjoyment, and sense of wonder and excitement that is generated when children engage with their environment. Activities in the natural world connect us on a fundamental level to who we are and give us a real sense of what we are.
Experiences in a relaxing outdoor space, uncluttered by the modern world, can be significant and rewarding to those experiencing it. Some approaches which focus on this, such as Forest School, can provide many benefits through repeated experience.
A wealth of informal and formal observations and case studies now look at the benefits of supporting groups of all ages to access nature.
Over the last 10 years Forest Research (part of the Forestry Commission) has explored in detail the way in which trees benefit wider society. There is now a considerable breathe of evidence presented by Forest Research which supports the idea that spending time in woodlands is good for you.
The benefits of Forest School will be reflected in the Characteristics of Effective Learning and the prime and specific areas of Learning and Development which are all connected in the following areas:
♥ Expressive Arts and Design √
♥ Personal, Social and Emotional Development √
♥ Communication and Language √
♥ Mathematical Development √
♥ Understanding the World √
♥ Physical Development √
♥ Literacy √
Further potential benefits are:
♥ The Forest School program evolves from the needs of the child and includes the child's interests. √
♥ Children develop good self esteem in a climate of small achievable steps. √
♥ Provides a real context for language. √
♥ Provides practitioners with an alternative view of the child and further insights into the child's particular development. √
♥ Beneficial to the child's all round development, particularly in the areas of personal, social and emotional, language and communication. √
♥ Underpins the priciples laid down in the foundation stage guideline. √
♥ The Forest School experience is very well received by all those involved in it. √
♥ Provides endless opportunities for the children to take risks, problem solve and use thinking skills. √
♥ Complements learning in the classroom and can be transferred. √
Forest School provides opportunities for real creativity and imaginative play, more time to explore, investigate and to develop own ideas, self esteem and sense of pride in own achievements within the space and freedom to move around and develop physical skills challenged with associated health benefits, risk taking and more importantly the understanding of risk in a managed way.
"Nature is an admirable school mistress" - (Henry David Thoreau 1819-1862 US Philosopher)